'Awareness doesn't take weekends off.' Mental health discussion intensifies

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Famed chef and television host Anthony Bourdain killed himself Friday at the age of 61. It comes just days after fashion designer, Kate Spade, took her life.

These two high profile cases have cast the spotlight back on mental health and suicide prevention.

"Having read so many of Bourdain's books and watching so many of his shows, I always felt like I had a connection with him. It was pretty painful thing to wake up to this morning," said Charlotte City Councilman Larken Egleston.

Egleston grew up loving to cook and worked in restaurants for many years. He actually met Bourdain back in 2004 and, he says, that motivated him to go to culinary school.

"It never felt all that cool until Bourdain talked about it or until he wrote about it," said Egleston. "A large number of people in that industry, he was the motivating factor."

Kate Spade, the famed fashion designer also took her own life this week.

"We can't let our perception of people's lives make us think everything is OK. We have to be mindful of the signs that it might not be," said Egleston.

Many people are now working to learn about how they can be more aware of those struggling around them.

"I believe the awareness of it does not stop at 5 p.m. or take weekends off," said Ricky Witherspoon, a Certified Peer Support Specialist that works with those that deal with depression or thoughts of suicide.

Witherspoon is a survivor himself.

"It was a really dark place and just when I thought that I hit bottom, and I didn't comply, I found out that there was an even deeper bottom. It is not a good place to be," said Witherspoon.

Experts encourage people to be aware of the signs whether it is depression, personality changes, or past behavior.

"Asking the question does not put the idea of suicide in someone's head. It does, however, open the door to communication and help," said a psychiatrist with Atrium Health.

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